Plan would bar tourney play if teams miss graduate mark

March 18, 2010|By From Sun news services

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pushed a proposal Wednesday to bar men's college basketball teams from postseason play if they fail to graduate 40 percent of their players, an idea that didn't go over well with coaches preparing for March Madness.

If put into practice this year, a dozen teams in the NCAA tournament would be ineligible, based on an annual study from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.

That includes a No. 1 seed, Kentucky, which graduated 31 percent of its players, and Maryland (8 percent), according to the institute's latest report.

"Frankly, that's a low bar, and not many teams would be ineligible," Duncan, who played college basketball at Harvard, said on a conference call. "Over time, we should set a higher bar. But it's a minimum, a bright line, which every program should meet to vie for postseason honors."

Duncan emphasized the troubling disparities between graduation rates for black and white players.

The annual report examining the NCAA tournament field found that 45 teams graduated 70 percent or more of their white players, up from 33 teams last year. But only 20 teams graduated at least 70 percent of their black players, the same as last year. Two teams - Maryland and California - graduated none of their black players who started school from 1999 through 2002, Duncan said.

Maryland coach Gary Williams, asked in November about the graduation rate study, said, "We've graduated eight of our last 10 players and our three seniors are on schedule to graduate, and our underclassmen are doing very well."

Said Kentucky coach John Calipari: "We're going to graduate three seniors on this team, and we're going to have a junior that's going to graduate this year. So, academically, I'm all about that."

The other men's teams that would be barred from postseason play this year if Duncan's idea were adopted: California (20 percent), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (29 percent), Washington (29 percent), Tennessee (30 percent), Kentucky, Baylor (36 percent), Missouri (36 percent), New Mexico State (36 percent), Clemson (37 percent), Georgia Tech (38 percent) and Louisville (38 percent).

Obama's bracket: The First Fan appears to be a big fan of basketball programs from Kansas.

President Barack Obama predicted Kansas and Kansas State to join Kentucky and Villanova in the men's basketball Final Four this season, with the Jayhawks defeating Kentucky for the title.

Obama filled out a bracket for ESPN for the second straight year Wednesday. Last year, Obama correctly picked North Carolina to win the national title. His bracket ranked 903,125th overall, just above the 80th percentile in ESPN's online contest.

Obama predicted several first-round upsets: No. 13 seed Siena over Purdue, 12th-seeded Cornell to beat Temple, and Murray State to upset fourth-seeded Vanderbilt.

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